Democracy means an open society
THERE is a struggle between those who want to strengthen democracy by operat- ing in the open and those who want prob- lems to be hidden from public view. Our courts, which have a duty to uphold the constitution, this week ruled in favour of telling the whole story. The Supreme Court of Appeal strengthened our democracy by ruling as unconsti- tutional Parliament’s policy not to allow the broad- cast of disruptions of sittings. The case stems from the disruption of President Jacob Zuma’s 2015 State-of-the-Nation address by opposition MPs and the use of jamming technol- ogy to prevent events being reported via cellphones and the censoring of TV broadcasts. Parliament’s official cameras remained focused on the S peak- er while the action was on the chamber floor, when EFF MPs were dragged out by security officials. In protest, other opposition MPs walked out. Earlier this year there was a row when the SABC banned staff from broadcasting violent protests showing the destruction of public property. The ban was widely condemned and found to be invalid by the Independent Communications Authority of SA, which ordered the SABC to reverse it. Several journalists who protested against the censorship were fired but later reinstated by the Labour Court. In this week’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruling the judges said the signal jamming and censoring of broadcasts was unconstitutional. It violated the principle of an open Parliament. Citizens needed to know what their MPs were saying and they relied on public reports and broadcasts. They were saying the media must be allowed to do their jobs. The same argument applies to the student pro- tests. Some students and university security per- sonnel have attacked journalists recording the de- struction of property. Students need to realise for their issues to be properly debated by society they also have to respect the role the media plays in an open democracy.